The garden and I reach a low point in August. Even in good years (namely, those with decent rainfall), the garden looks badly stressed by this time of year. I usually spend a lot of time dispensing emergency rations of water but this year, with virtually the entire State of California in severe drought, I think twice before administering any aid. I gave the lemon tree at the bottom of our slope, which I suspect has been in place for 25 or more years, a good soak last Saturday when my husband (who usually pays no attention to plants) expressed concern that it was dying. Two days ago, I accepted the fact that my favorite Correa, 'Sister Dawn', planted in 2018, was dead. Large sections of creeping thyme in various areas have died out. I could go on. Wishing to avoid the bleak newscasts for at least awhile, I decided to see what I could accomplish in the garden to put a positive spin on its appearance.
Rather than tackle one of the areas that looks really bad, I decided to start with an area that looks relatively good. My hope was that, with a little work, it could look even better.
|This is the dry garden on the northeast side of the house. The issues here aren't readily apparent in this wide shot.|
|Even in this closeup shot, the problem may be hard to see. But there's a large, nearly invisible Agave ovatifolia lurking behind that Cistus shrub in the center.|
My first objective was to remove the Cistus 'Victor Reiter' I'd planted from a 4-inch pot in 2016. It grew taller than I'd envisioned and didn't get enough sun to bloom well, and of course it was blocking the view of my oldest Agave ovatifolia. I thought of relocating it but I didn't have an immediate placement in mind so I took cuttings instead.
|I took twenty cuttings in all, storing them in this area behind the garage that gets only morning sun. This is admittedly not the best time of year to take cuttings but I hope at least a few will root.|
Other than periodically getting poked by the nearby agaves, the Cistus came out with relative ease. Agave ovatifolia regained its rightful place as a focal point.
|And here's a closeup from the same vantage point used in my second photo|
There's now an empty space in front of the agave that needs to be filled. There are half a dozen agave pups I can't identify there but I'll probably pot them up to give away as they're too small to have any impact. I noticed I have grass seedlings in another section of this area so I may transplant one or two of those here.
|NoID agave pups. There are several other agaves nearby, any of which might be the parent.|
|I'm fairly certain that this grass seedling is Melinus nerviglumis (aka ruby grass). Unlike the Cistus, it doesn't get very big so it might be a good fit in the empty spot in front of Agave ovatifolia.|
After a midday break, I tackled cleanup of the area behind the Agave ovatifolia. In addition to pulling weeds, I trimmed back rosemary and lightly pruned both the 'Hachiya' persimmon tree (currently laden with fruit) and Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey'.
|As shown in the "before" shot on the left, the tall Coprosma was interfering with the massive arms of Agave vilmoriniana. The photo on the right was taken after I cleaned things up.|
I pulled out a lot of self-seeded Dorycnium hirsutum (aka Hairy Canary Clover), potting up one viable seedling to fill an empty space where another clover died last year.
|Assuming the seedling on the left survives being roughly yanked out the ground, I'll transplant it in the empty spot shown on the right once our rainy season (hopefully) starts|
Dorycnium is a lovely plant in and out of bloom but it's a rampant self-seeder and a vigorous spreader. I cut back some of the plants swamping other plants during my cleanup operation as well.
|The photo on the left shows a clover covering a clump of grass and infringing on nearby agaves. The photos on the right show the clover in two areas after it was cut back.|
The ivy growing into the area from the back slope needs to be cut back as well but that's a job for another time. At least the day's cleanup effort left me in a more positive frame of mind. I can't solve climate change or the world's other problems but at least I can accomplish little things that improve the appearance of my garden. Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.
All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party
What a difference your clean up made! I need to go look at my garden now for areas where some trimming is needed.ReplyDelete
There are other areas in more serious needs of cleanup and rejuvenation but I'm waiting for reliably cooler conditions before I dig in - and when I say "dig in" I mean that literally. I'm going to bring in a truckload of mulch too, which I haven't done in a couple of years now.Delete
It always is a nice sense of accomplishment we feel after a good tidy-up. Looking good!ReplyDelete
Thanks Eliza. Puttering without purpose, which is what I've been doing, doesn't deliver the same sense of satisfaction.Delete
I can hardly bear to go into my garden! The heat this summer has really taken a toll. I keep two watering systems going but it's just not enough. Poor things! I've pulled almost all my annuals, put down more mulch and just wait for cooler weather!ReplyDelete
I'm waiting for cooler weather to tackle the big ticket projects myself, Libby. We've had cooler temperatures for 3 days now, which should last through the weekend, but it's still more humid than usual.Delete
Having trouble commenting (some issue on my machine) so I'll try again...ReplyDelete
great improvement just by bringing the sculptural form of ovatifolia back into view. Sometimes one detail does so much.
I really shouldn't have left the agave hidden behind that Cistus as long as I did, HB. I kept cutting back the Cistus but that didn't do the trick - and it kept the Cistus from blooming in the bargain.Delete
Work in the garden always improve on my state of being. The "Ta-da!" photo is superb. That blue agave is a jewel in that space.ReplyDelete
I grow Hairy Canary Clover, but it's not very hardy in my north seattle garden. I noticed seedlings in various places, but hardly enough to make me panic: a good freeze will crisp them up :-D
Nature isn't that helpful with edits in my garden. We don't get freezes, although plants do periodically get incinerated.Delete
This kind of garden editing reminds me of sculpting -- and boy did you reveal a beautiful sculpture with the whale's tongue agave!ReplyDelete
Sculpting! I like that metaphor.Delete
Small things yield big results. The view is much improved and I like how the path meanders through the bed. It's a striking vignette.ReplyDelete
Your garden is beautiful every time I visit it, but I get it about the late summer cleanup. The Agave does stand out more now and is gorgeous! a cleanup can be very satisfying too!ReplyDelete
Thanks Lee. It's the clear impacts of the hotter, drier conditions and water limitations that's getting me down most at this point.Delete
I can't begin to imagine how difficult it is for you to Kris to care for your beautiful garden without having a ready source of water to hand. You must need to think very carefully about what you plant. Here I woke up at 3.00am with the noise of water cascading off the gutters and cursed as my sleep was disturbed. It has been a cool, wet and breezy August here and I feel at a low point too. Sometimes thought we don't always realise how fortunate we are although it would still be nice to have a bit more of your sunshine 😄ReplyDelete
Mother Nature isn't even-handed, Anna, that's for sure. The water issue seems a much bigger deal than it did in 2015 when drought first led to water restrictions. The term bandied out now is "mega-drought," which suggests that it's not going away anytime soon.Delete
Taking cuttings of the Cistus was a great idea! The Agaves look fabulous. All your succulents look very happy, and hopefully you'll get some much needed rain soon.ReplyDelete
Unfortunately, the odds are we won't see real rain here until November. But the marine layer returned last week, which has at least brought our afternoon temperatures down a bit - the fog was so thick a couple days ago, it wet the pavement even if it didn't register as rain. Every bit helps!Delete
Clever to start with a bit that needs small work to make it look perfect. I am having to rescue plants that get forgotten when their neighbours swamp them. Taking a bunch of Aloe maculata 'seedlings' to share with my hikers. The seedlings turned into teenagers once I dug them out.ReplyDelete
Free plants always get grabbed up quickly here, Diana. I hope your fellow hikers appreciate them.Delete
The before looked very good. The after is excellent, showcasing both the whale's tongue and octopus agaves. I do think your Dorycnium hirsutum “Hairy Canary Clover” is a great ground cover. I will need to remember to use it in my parkway garden.ReplyDelete
It is vigorous, Kay! That's a plus and a minus but, if you watch it as its sets seed and when seedlings start to emerge, it's manageable.Delete
"Agave ovatifolia regained its rightful place as a focal point"....YES! Well done.ReplyDelete
I knew you'd feel I did the right thing yanking out that Cistus, Loree!Delete